Oleg Proskurin


Kandidatskaya, Moscow State University

In 1984 I received my Ph.D. from the Department of Russian Literature at the Moscow State University. From 1985 through 1997, I taught Russian literature at the Moscow State Pedagogical University. My former students include successful editors, writers, and literary scholars. During the 1990's, I also taught as a visiting professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Northwestern University, and Cornell University. In 1998-1999 I worked as a Visiting Fellow at the Institute for European Studies (Cornell University); and in 2000-2001, as a Visiting Scholar in the Davis Center for Russian Studies at Harvard University.

I wrote a number of works on the history of Russian literature of the 18th-20th centuries and on modern literature, culture and politics.

My book Pushkin's Poetry, or A Lively Palimpsest (Moscow: NLO, 1999) was included in the short list of the 2000 Andrei Bely Award and was listed among the best Russian books of the 90's by several critics. My book Literary Scandals of Pushkin's Time (Moscow: OGI, 2000) provoked furious debates and was listed among the best books of the month, best books of the year, and best books on literature of the last decade.

Currently I am finishing my new book, "Gogol's High-Society Romance," and preparing a book-length commentary to Pushkin's narrative poems.

I love good parties, Baroque music, and long walking tours.



Course List: 

Courses offered in the past four years.
indicates offered in the current term
indicates offered in the upcoming term[s]

RUSS 6609 - Literature and Revolution      

The Russian Revolution of 1917 was one of the most significant events of the 20th century. The Revolution exerted a dominant influence on all aspects of Russian life, including literature. Literature not only reflected the events of the Revolution (and the Civil War as an important stage of the Revolution) with exceptional vividness, but it also attempted to interpret them artistically. Revolutionary events influenced not only the content of new literature, but also its form, its composition by genre, and its aesthetic principles. Because of this, Russian literature of the 1910s-1920s became one of the most interesting and significant artistic phenomena of the 20th century

We will investigate works of renowned and lesser known Russian writers of the 1910s-1920s that reflect aspects of the 1917 Revolution from different, often opposing, perspectives. We will read poets (Alexander Blok, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Anna Akhmatova, Marina Tsvetaeva, Zinaida Gippius, and others), writers of prose (Ivan Bunin, Aleksey Tolstoy, Mikhail Sholokhov, Marietta Shaginian, Artem Vesely, Anatoly Marienhof, Boris Lavrenev, Boris Pilniak, and others), and publicists (Vasily Rozanov, Larisa Reysner). We will examine literature as it relates to historical events, as well as to the visual art, theater, and film of its time. Civ Cul & Soc Literature

Summer 2017 Language Schools, LS 6 Week Session

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RUSS 6615 - Poets and Politics      

Poets Against the Authorities: from G. Derzhavin to J. Brodsky

Poetry has always played a unique role in Russian history. Due to the absence of possibilities for legal political life and political action, poets sometimes took the place of politicians. Accordingly, state authorities always desired to convert Russian poets into their allies, or persecuted them as political enemies (i.e., exiled them, expelled them from the country, imprisoned them, and even sent them to their deaths). In 19th-century authoritarian Russia and the 20th-century totalitarian Soviet Union, we often find situations that could not be imaginable in ‘normal’ democratic societies: the leaders of the state (such as Alexander I, Nicholas I, and Joseph Stalin) carefully read the poetic works of the major Russian poets and carried special resolutions about them; some sessions of the State Council of Imperial Russia or the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party were completely devoted to recent poetic works and their possible impact on the inner conditions of society and on foreign affairs. In our course, we will examine the reasons for this unique attention paid by the state to poets and poetry. The political views of different Russian poets, as well as their influence on Russian society, will be a subject of our special examination. We will explore works and ideas of such poets as Gavriil Derzhavin, Alexander Pushkin, Mikhail Lermontov, Fedor Tyutchev, Nikolai Nekrasov, Alexander Blok, Osip Mandelshtam, Anna Akhmatova, Boris Pasternak, and Joseph Brodsky. We will examine some cases in which poetry became a major issue of political life: Pushkin’s ‘southern exile’ and the case of his poem “André Chénier,” the Central Committee’s Resolution on the journals Zvezda and Leningrad (particularly against Anna Akhmatova), Pasternak’s Nobel Prize scandal, or the trials around Joseph Brodsky (who was charged with “parasitism”). Literature

Summer 2014 Language Schools, LS 6 Week Session

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RUSS 6621 - Nikolai Gogol      

Having spent many years abroad looking at Russia from the outside, Ukrainian-born Nikolai Gogol was able to see in everyday, prosaic Russian life a grotesque phantasmagoria in which the humorous is inextricably tied with the frightening. In this course, we will systematically examine Gogol’s most important works. Most of our attention will be paid to the so-called “Petersburg Tales,” The Government Inspector, and the mysterious Dead Souls (which contemporaries labeled a novel, but Gogol himself called a poem). We will investigate Gogol’s artistic strategy, his ideology, and peculiarities of his poetics. Gogol’s artistic works will be examined in parallel with the societal, cultural, and literary milieus of his time. Throughout the course, we will familiarize ourselves with important works by Russian critics that exerted influence not only on Gogol’s attitude towards art, but on the development of literary theory (B. Eichenbaum’s “How Gogol’s Overcoat was made” and others). Literature

Summer 2017 Language Schools, LS 6 Week Session

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RUSS 6626 - Russian Literature of 2010s      

This course is dedicated to the newest Russian literature: the books that we will read and analyze were all published in the 2010s, half in the year 2015. Our focus will be on the writings of four authors, representing various generations (from age 48 to 29) and various trends in contemporary Russian literature. The authors have already received critical attention from readers and literary experts. Last year, Alexander Snegirev was awarded the Russian Booker Prize, Alisa Ganieva was selected as a Russian Booker finalist, and Anna Matveeva was a finalist for the «??????? ?????». Special attention will be given to the work of Dmitry Bykov – famous writer, author of a cult-status biography of Boris Pasternak, poet, journalist and media personality, and winner of numerous literary awards («??????? ?????», «???????????? ??????????», ?????? ??. ??????? ??????????, and others). Bykov will be a guest of the Russian School in 2016, so students will have the opportunity to engage with the author directly in discussions of his work and the situation in contemporary Russian literature.

Texts will include:
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Summer 2016 Language Schools, LS 6 Week Session

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RUSS 6634 - Contemporary Russ Literature      

Contemporary Russian Literature: Texts, Myths, Symbols

This course is designed to acquaint students with the way Russian literature has developed during the past decade. The emphasis will be on comprehension of the texts, myths, and symbols created by representatives of different trends in modern Russian literature, from recent examples of traditional psychological prose up to alternative or postmodern authors. We will also discuss modern social and political issues, as well as the most recent cultural events in Russia. Authors will include Tatyana Tolstaya, Victor Pelevin, Liudmila Petrushevskaia, Vladimir Sorokin, and Boris Akunin. Literature

Summer 2014 Language Schools, LS 6 Week Session

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RUSS 6662 - Individual & State in Russ Lit      

Face to Face with the Leviathan: Individual and State in Russian Literature

Harrowing or even tragic relationships between the individual and the state exemplify one of the main topics of Russian culture. The course will focus on examining prose and poetry texts of the 19th and 20th centuries. The reading list will include writers from Imperial Russia through the post-Soviet era: Pushkin, Gogol, Tolstoy, Zamyatin, Akhmatova, Solzhenitsyn, Pelevin, and Tolstaya.

Required Texts:
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Summer 2015 Language Schools, LS 6 Week Session

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RUSS 6711 - Russ Culture between West&East      

Russian Culture between West and East

The course will dwell on eternal Russian questions: Where is Russia’s place? In Europe? In Asia? Or maybe there is some “third path” between West and East? Students will investigate how the most famous Russian writers (18th-21th centuries) sought answers to these questions. We will examine how Russia was perceived by foreign travelers, and how Russian writers construed West or East while traveling abroad. Slavophiles and westernizers from Nikolay Karamzin and Denis Fonvizin up to Vladimir Maikovsky or Andrei Platonov will be among our topics. We will study literary works in the wide context of Russian political history, arts, and music. Civ Cul & Soc Literature

Summer 2015 Language Schools, LS 6 Week Session

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RUSS 6715 - Pushkin's Evgeny Onegin      

Alexander Pushkin’s /Evgeny Onegin/

It is difficult to find a work that has had a greater impact on Russian literature than A. Pushkin’s novel in verse Evgeny Onegin. Hundreds if not thousands of works in various languages have been devoted to the novel. Nevertheless, many puzzles remain. How should we understand Pushkin’s words: «???? ?? ?????, ? ????? ? ?????? – ??????????? ???????»? How is the “Onegin stanza” constructed, why is it necessary? What literary works, Russian and foreign, must be known in order to read Pushkin’s text? Where in the novel is the boundary between tragedy and parody? What in the novel could Pushkin’s contemporaries understand at once, which for us requires clarification and detailed commentary? Why does Tchaikovsky’s famous opera not so much help, but rather hinder, our understanding of Pushkin’s original work? What have writers such as Vissarion Belinsky, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, the Russian Formalists, Mikhail Bakhtin, and Yuri Lotman seen and not seen in Evgeny Onegin, and why? We will try to answer these and many other questions through a close reading of Pushkin’s novel in verse and other writings by Pushkin, his contemporaries, and his later critics.

Texts will include:
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Course pack (????????? ?? ?????? ?. ?. ??????????, ?. ?. ????????, ?. ?. ????????????; ????????? ?? ????? ?. ?. ??????????, ?. ?. ????????, ?. ?. ????????, ?. ?. ???????, ?. ?. ???????, ?. ?. ??????????; ??????????? ?????? ?. ?. ??????? ? ??? ?????????????).

Summer 2016 Language Schools, LS 6 Week Session

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Davis School of Russian

Oliver Carling, Coordinator
P: 802.443.2006

Mailing address
Russian School
Middlebury College
14 Old Chapel Road
Middlebury, VT 05753